Black Swan is a dance film and dance films are very close to my heart, because ever since I was little I’ve always had a dance in my head. Now dance is a great means to express yourself and as I’ve been watching Got To Dance on Sky 1 (Sunday’s at 6pm), I’ve found it really interesting hearing the stories of kids, teenagers, even adults and how dance helps them express themselves and the emotions they can feel. So how do you express that feeling onto the screen. It is something that I have been fascinated with, and I guess you might even say become obsessed with. There have been many many dance films and very rarely do I see a dance that I think, wow that was filmed amazingly. Every single moment in Black Swan was like that though for me, it was just incredible. The opening scene was by far my favourite. The camera moves so quickly and yet you can still see the dancers, it really is like you become part of the dance. And what I particularly loved about the scene was the use of CGI as Natalie Portman‘s partner in the opening sequence transforms from a human into a demon. This is the sort of thing I’ve always had in my head and yet I’ve never seen anyone else do until now.
However, whilst I would say that Black Swan is the closest film that exists to perfection when it comes to my vision of a dance film the actual dancing isn’t filmed that well because the camera does not focus on the hands, the feet or even the dancers body, but instead focuses on their face. And their face being Natalie Portman’s, because her character (Nina) is who the film is all about. And her performance is absolutely sublime, and in my opinion is her best performance to date. The film is all about what she feels and what is going on in her head and so the main focus on the dance scenes (and throughout the rest of the scenes) is her face. And yet still I find that the dance scenes are shot incredible due to the movement of the camera, as it really gave me a sense that I was dancing.
The film is basically a literal telling of the story of Swan Lake, and it reminds me of the David Lynch film Inland Empire, because the characters in Black Swan are rehearsing for a performance of Swan Lake whilst the actual story of Swan Lake begins to happen to Natalie Portman’s character. Similar to Inland Empire in that Laura Dern‘s character is acting in a movie and as the production goes on the events of the movie begin to happen to her. Fortunately for the audience Black Swan is a lot easier to understand then Inland Empire!
I’ve only seen two other films by Darren Aronofsky, Requiem For A Dream which I really didn’t enjoy and The Fountain which was simply amazing in my opinion. It seems in terms of themes that Aronofsky has returned more to his roots with drugs and sex being a strong motif throughout Black Swan, and what I enjoyed about the film was that he kept his surreal sort of style as well. 90% of The Fountain is a pretty normal story, but the end can be quite confusing if you think about it too much because it is quite abstract. Well whilst I wouldn’t say Black Swan is confusing there is an element of the abstract world in the film, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
There are horror elements to the film as it progresses and whilst some people I’ve spoken to have said they are too over dramatic I found that they were just right because they are meant to be over dramatic. Scored by classical music by Clint Mansell and using themes from Tchaikovsky‘s original ballet score, brings a whole other level of dramatics to the scenes which I thought spoke beautifully of ballet itself, which the film is representing. It is the film version of a ballet and so must be dramatic.
Overall it was an amazing film which is up for several Oscar Nominations, including Best Picture which I think personally it should win. But then I love dance so I’m bias!
If you’re interested in sound design then here is a short featurette on the sound of Black Swan.